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Gene Drive-Ish

A new study of using gene drives in mice has found that they may not be as easy to use as hoped, New Scientist reports.

Scientists have suggested that gene drives, which aims to spread particular genes through a population at higher-than-usual rates, could be used to eliminate pests such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes, invasive rodents, and flies that destroy crops.

But researchers from the University of California, San Diego reports in Nature this week that they used a CRISPR-based gene drive to disrupt the mouse tyrosinase gene. Though this boosted the inheritance of the desired allele from 50 percent to 72 percent, they observed an average copying rate of 44 percent. Additionally, it didn't work in male mice.

"I think we were all a little surprised because it works so well in insects," UCSD's Kimberly Cooper tells the New Scientist.

She adds at the Guardian that their findings call into question whether the approach will ever be as efficient as would be needed to have a wild release.

"Their results highlight that such a tool for population eradication in the wild is far from being available," adds Christophe Boëte from the University of Montpellier at the Guardian. "The low efficacy means that it would take many generations and favors selection for resistance against the drive."

Cooper notes, though, that there would still be numerous uses for it in the lab.

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